• Vol. 03
  • Chapter 12

Come Closer

‘Come closer’ she said. So I did. She reclined in front of me as if to suggest intimacy. Instead it suggested familiarity: familiarity with the situation, familiarity with the surroundings, familiarity with me. She did not know me, and yet she knew me all too well.

I was at once both the centre of her universe and the Arcturus star, only not as bright. We declined to look at each other and instead her gaze swept around the room as though seeing it for the first time, or so I thought. I followed her gaze and took in paintings by Vogel von Vogelstein, Édouard Manet and Jan van Eyck. They sat side-by-side on the wall and suggested an owner who knew where they had came from, but who knew where they were going. To this viewer too they offered tantalising glimpses of past, present and future.

‘Kiss me’ she said. So I did. To do so I stepped closer still. I bent myself double in order to get close enough to touch her lips with mine. Her lips parted and all at once I felt crushed by the room and all its contents, the air squeezed from my lungs. She smiled knowingly at my gasp while I, breathless and giddy, tasted stale smoke and bitter wine.

I heard a professional sigh, and when I closed my eyes I was both present and absent. Here…and yet not here. My knees buckled and I almost fell. ‘I’m sorry’ I said, ‘I’ve never done this before’. She hushed me and issued further instructions.

‘Help me up’ she said. So I did. Standing in front of me she looked proud. Defiant. These were her choices, her decisions, her life. My being here was her choice too. I knew this. I felt honoured.

I followed her gaze to another picture. A photo. A black and white


Come Closer

close-up of a small girl, squinting into sunshine. A smile filled her face, ice cream stained her lips and a Wurlitzer barrelled in the background. Another time, another place. Another person. Yet, I saw that face now, in front of me. I stared and willed her to look at me. But I was not the one in control. Eventually, though, she turned to me and looked into my eyes. She saw deep into my soul, and in that instant I wanted to be here. I wanted to know the girl in the photograph and the woman who held my gaze. More than anything in the world I wanted to know everything about her. But she saw through me and turned away.

The spell was broken and moment was gone. She picked up the photograph and she traced the outline of the little girl’s smile with her finger and smiled at the memory. As if suddenly remembering that she was not alone, she lifted her head and looked at me as if seeing me for the first time.

‘Come closer’ I said, but she didn’t.